The death toll from the strongest earthquake to hit China’s southwestern Sichuan province since 2017 rose to 65 on Tuesday as rescuers rushed to reach hundreds of stranded people, restore utilities and send emergency relief.
Nearly 250 people were being treated for injuries from the disaster, with dozens critically wounded, according to Chinese state media.
Rescuers are also working on retrieving over 200 people stranded in the quake zone, restoring telecommunications services and power and water utilities, as well as delivering food supply to residents affected by the magnitude-6.8 temblor, state media reported.
The powerful earthquake struck Sichuan after midday on Monday, with the epicentre deep in the province’s mountainous interior in the west. The quake was felt as far away as the provinces of Shaanxi and Guizhou, hundreds of kilometres away.
On Tuesday, state television reported over 200 people were still stranded in Hailuogou, a popular tourist spot known for its glaciers, verdant forests and soaring peaks. Rescuers were still working to reopen blocked roads to reach them.
In Luding, the epicentre of the quake, power and water infrastructure and telecommunications were severely damaged, according to state television.
It also reported that 243 houses had collapsed and 13,010 had been damaged. Four hotels and hundreds of home stays were also affected.
The quake cut power to several towns, while various highways collapsed and seven small-to-mid-sized hydropower stations suffered damage.
With heavy rains expected over the next three days, experts on Tuesday flagged risks from a number of dammed lakes that have formed after the quake.
Authorities were considering flying drones to inspect the situation upstream of Wandong River, the main tributary of Dadu River.
Earthquakes are common in Sichuan, especially in its mountains in the west, a tectonically active area along the eastern boundary of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.
Monday’s quake was Sichuan’s biggest since August 2017, when one of magnitude 7.0 hit the Aba prefecture north of Luding.
In recent decades, the most devastating earthquake in Sichuan – and China – was in 2008, when a magnitude 8.0 temblor centred in Wenchuan killed nearly 70,000 people.